VICTORIA (CUP) — The sights and sounds of video arcades are now flashing to a new beat. Almost gone are single-player games, as multiplayer cabinets are more visible to the public eye. They’re part of the social gaming scene, which isn’t as new as one would think.
“It’s anything from sitting at a table playing cards, to playing Counter-Strike online. It’s where a group of people come together because they have one thing in common,” said Richard DiCastri, an employee of the Zone, an arcade in Victoria, B.C.
But since just about everything can be played online, DiCastri believes gamers don’t have to go anywhere specific to play a game with their friends. They can reach out online.
In games like Facebook’s Farmville, players interact with their friends by helping each other out. But in arcades, co-operative play usually doesn’t happen. Most traditional video games are usually about competitive play as opposed to co-operative — a major selling point of social-gaming networks — but there’s always the rare exception, like Gauntlet. In that arcade classic, four people have to work together to battle enemies in a dungeon.
“From consoles to PC, some may argue that massive multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft are social, but you don’t see a lot of people play it all in the same room,” said Dwayne Morash, owner of EVO Games in Langford, B.C.
Morash says that lots of inter-player communication goes down at EVO.
“People here can lean over your shoulder to ask to join in. The next thing you know is that you have a group of people all playing together and they don’t even have to know each other,” said Morash.
“From consoles to PC, some may argue that massive multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft are social, but you don’t see a lot of people play it all in the same room.”
Social gaming helps build friendships, and Morash believes that the traditional video arcade has more of an amusement-park appeal. Those games are tailored to give people an experience that can’t be emulated at home.
Nintendo’s Wii comes close with its motion controller and exercise board, but arcade owners are going after a different market. Some, like the Zone, are tied in with a stable business like a movie theatre in order to help pay the bills.
“People like the variety of games we offer, especially while waiting for their movie to start,” said DiCastri. “Different types of games keep people interested so they can try something new.”
And while some gamers like to play in the comfort of their own home, there’s still a missing element.
“We want to bring people out of their house and into an environment where they can enjoy the same experience as they might at home, but with other folks,” said Peter Tatchell, owner of Blaze Online, a video-game lounge located in Victoria.
With social-gaming businesses all over the U.S., these two Victoria outlets — who will eventually both have tournament leagues — are not alone. They all share a common goal: to combat the trend they’re seeing in people’s social-gaming habits today.
“Crowds used to swarm to video arcades, but it’s a bit more difficult these days,” said Morash. “People aren’t as social anymore. They like being at home.”
The living-room ambiance is recreated at Blaze, and at EVO Games the newcomers are wowed by the number of networked gaming consoles that allow games like Halo to be better enjoyed.
But Tatchell says most gamers tend to stick to themselves in a quiet way.
“They’ll go to gaming events and play what they want, but usually by themselves,” said Tatchell. “Unless it’s a card game where one plays physically, they often don’t get engaged at that level. That’s something we’d like to change.”